post by nathan k
Wisconsin is becoming more and more divided. Every day we hear more stories of recall supporters being harassed, both verbally and physically, by Walker supporters. To try to gain some understanding, I sometimes try to imagine the thoughts and rationale of these Walker supporters, some of whom are lashing out in a very rude, angry and almost reflexive, instinctual, thoughtless fashion. To me, it seems that they must be very fearful people deep down inside, to display such anger openly and outwardly. What is it that they believe about those who are working to recall Walker and the Republican state senators ? Why should Walker supporters be afraid of recall supporters, or feel the need to be violent toward them ?
Internet posts and comments by Walker supporters I’ve read, some filled with seething vitriol and hate-filled disdain, seem to indicate they think recall supporters are godless heathens hell-bent on destroying Wisconsin…that because they do not support Walker and the Republican legislators, they must not want Wisconsin and its citizens to be prosperous. Walker supporters, I implore you — take a good look at the people on the street corner collecting recall signatures. They are young, old, wives, husbands, single, fathers, mothers, employees, retirees, veterans…people of all stripes, from all backgrounds, from all political persuasions. They are not monsters. They are Wisconsin citizens, and they are your neighbors. No one is paying them to do this. They are doing what the Constitution of Wisconsin and the law allows them to do, and they are doing what they believe in their heart of hearts is the right thing to do. Do you really believe that they want Wisconsin to crash and burn ? That they want chaos, anarchy and misery to rule ? Recall supporters are Wisconsinites, too…they love living here, and all that this beautiful state has to offer…their kids go to school here…they want their communities and their state to be healthy, strong and prosperous now and into the future…they believe in a fair, strong and just government to protect citizens and resources from those who would seek to take advantage of them… and they are doing what they are lawfully within their rights to do and what they believe is best in order to ensure that happens.
Consider the above statement and take a look again at what recall supporters stand for, at the core. Are we all really so very different ? We are all human just the same. Even if we do not agree on the whys and hows, violent behavior against someone you do not happen to agree with is uncalled for, unjustified and inexcusable. And take another look — contrary to what some Walker supporters might believe, recall supporters are going by the letter of the law in collecting the required signatures in order to make damn sure that they will not be accused of malfeasance, because they do not want to fail in their mission. It is Walker supporters who are telling each other to sign multiple and false names on recall petitions in order to hurt and discredit the recall; that is, when not scribbling on, tearing up or stealing the petition forms (a felony, by the way).
Walker supporters seem to think that recall supporters should just wait for the next election in order to try to make a change. However, if the current office holders who were sworn to serve ALL Wisconsin citizens upon taking the oath of office actually did so, there would not be a problem. No matter what party or group or class citizens belong to, the governor, the senators and the representatives must listen to the people they have sworn to serve. And Walker and Company are…not…listening. In fact, they have made a concerted effort to close off the very ability to speak up, to dissent. THIS is why there is an effort to recall them…not because the minority Democrats demand it for having lost the last election, not because Unions demand it, not because Obama demands it, not because shadowy out-of-state Communist / Marxist / Anarchist cabals demand it — it is because the citizens of Wisconsin demand fairness and cooperation, they demand to be heard, they demand transparency and accountability, as has been the Wisconsin way for over a hundred years. And when they receive none of these things, instead receiving the opposite, along with a callous, dismissive, and uncaring attitude from elected leaders trying to suppress dissenting voices, there is no other recourse but to recall and remove them before more damage is done. As recall supporters see it, at stake is not only the system of government that serves and protects us, and its integrity, but our reputation as a model to other states on how government should work…and indeed, our very way of life.
To recap the list of offenses :
The majority party — although elected by only slightly more than half of the votes cast in an election where less than half of the state’s population turned out to cast ballots, thus putting actual measured support at somewhere less than ¼ of the state — suddenly feels as though they have a mandate from on high to to exclude all outside input and legislate in any way they see fit, laws and consequences be damned. Legislative members of minority party, even though they were duly elected as well, were not allowed to be informed of, see or give input on legislative bills and proposals. Meetings were scheduled for odd hours, even the middle of the night, without the appropriate public notice required by law, sometimes without even notifying the minority party. Hurry-up votes were quickly called for and rammed through without allowing dissent or amendments by the minority party. Public hearings were scheduled for rooms too small to accommodate enough people, or held far from the communities the proposed legislation would affect, and again often on notice short of the requirements by open meetings laws. When hearings began to be filled with citizens asking well-thought out questions and opposing these actions, the meetings would be abruptly ended, no more questions taken.
New rules and laws were enacted in order to protect and consolidate power and to limit dissent. Dozens of government posts that were once filled by individuals who had earned it through hard work and experience are now instead filled by appointment — and cronyism and corruption in these appointments are unfortunately now more and more commonplace. State agencies which were once accountable to citizens or a bi- or non-partisan board now report only to the governor. Even the legislature has ceded some of their power to the governor at his request.
Corporate giveaways were handed out to campaign contributors, and with revenues now drained as a result, a ‘budget crisis’ declared. Education — our foundation for prosperous communities and a prosperous state, and the cornerstone of good jobs — was decimated with cuts totalling nearly a billion dollars. Services to those most in need in this depressed economy (incidentally, a depression not of their making), including children, the poor, the elderly, veterans, and the disabled, were cut severely. Hard-working state employees — our neighbors, people who work to serve their communities — were made out to be a root of the problem, and the enemy.
The spectre of ‘voter fraud’ was raised, even though incidents of punishable fraud in Wisconsin are less numerous than those of UFO sightings here, and the most restrictive Voter ID in the nation was passed, putting many of those less fortunate souls without an up-to-date ID in a catch-22 — no ID without a birth certificate, but no birth certificate without an ID, reduced services means your closest DMV could be many miles away, and oh — there’s a fee for that. A highly gerrymandered redistricting of the state was done in secret, by private lawyers, on the taxpayers’ dime. Even though Tea-Party Republican legislators were elected on the promise of jobs, the legislation coming out has been highly partisan and not at all focused on jobs — things like concealed carry, earlier hours for alcohol sales, and restrictions on sex-ed. And now, they finally claim they are working on jobs — by working with a mining company in private to roll back environmental oversight and protections that were enacted over decades by members of both parties to keep our natural resources, our land and water, safe, clean and beautiful. All of this flies in the face of what a once-proud Wisconsin was built on and known for — respect, cooperation, transparency, and a government that serves all, no matter their station in life, and not just the few, the moneyed and the privileged.
The frustration over these things quickly caused the streets in front of local courthouses and other buildings statewide to spill over with protesters from all backgrounds and affiliations. Badgers that self-identify as Democrats, Republicans, Independents, or none of the above all came into the streets around the Capitol and into the Capitol building itself, and they all agreed — this is not how Wisconsin should be run. They said that even though we may disagree, we must try to respect one another, to work with one another, to listen to one another so that we can come to mutually beneficial agreements; that we must not lay the blame at the feet of those not responsible and we must not lay the cuts on those least fortunate and least able to bear them. When the rapidly swelling protesters, made up of Wisconsinites from near and far and now numbering in the hundreds of thousands despite the cold and snow, demanded that legislators and the governor return to respectful, cooperative and transparent ways of acting and governing, the people’s Capitol building was instead shut.
The capitol is open now, but with restrictions — you can now carry a gun in the Capitol, but you cannot carry a camera or a sign. You cannot gather inside in groups larger than 4 people without a permit. This is not the Wisconsin that we grew up in, and know and love…this is not the Wisconsin that Republican Progressive ‘Fighting Bob’ La Follette helped build into a beacon of what a state government should be…this is no longer the Wisconsin where home-grown legislators, from both rural towns and big cities, from both sides of the aisle, worked cooperatively and respectfully with one another and for their constituents for decades to provide equal footing for all. This is instead totalitarianism. And this is why we must recall and remove those who have no respect for fairness and cooperation, for one another, for the institution they are a part of and the citizens they have sworn to serve, for our natural landscape, for our traditions, and for our system of government, and it is why we must retake our government by replacing them with representatives that do. Only then will we be able to overcome the bitter partisanship and the ugly divide that those in power have created and nurtured, so that we can begin to heal, begin to rebuild and be prosperous, strong, healthy, safe and UNITED once again.
nathan k is a lifelong resident of the Wausau, WI area, who loves music, tinkering, and the outdoors. He hopes to help return control of Wisconsin’s government to the people, where it rightfully belongs.